Nine Dishes - A Beijing Watering Hole in Vancouver



One of the pleasures of being foodie for me is the exploration and discovery of new food, cuisines and places to dine out at. I recently met someone that was from Tianjin, China. And usually for me all my conversations eventually steer towards food topics. The last person I met from Tianjin brought me to O'tray's at President Plaza last summer. This is a stall that serves authentic Tianjin food. The couple who owns this stall are from Tianjin. And the husband was a chef/cook at a major hotel in Tianjin before immigrating to Canada. So I suggested that she try to visit O'trays. She in turn suggested a restaurant on Kingsway called, "Nine Dishes". She informs me that the owner is from Tianjin and the food was really good.

Google map 'steet view' showed a place called 'Pho Mai". Have you ever used this feature? Its pretty neat, isn't it?

http://maps.google.ca/maps?q=960+kingsway&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=qyPzS8yuKIT58Ab2m9nADg&sa=X&oi=mode_link&ct=mode&ved=0CAkQ_AU(click and drag the 'man' above the zoom in and zoom out slider and drop it onto 'A" on the map)

My memory recalls a Vietnamese restaurant that used to open late and have Karaoke on some night. It perked my interest and I needed a willing belly to join me. I emailed Fmed but couldn't set a date. He goes numerous times in the afternoon the following days but it was closed. On my next available free night I was really hoping that Fmed and Dylan would be available to join. Unfortunately, Fmed had already planned a chowdown and couldn't make it. So it was up to Dylan and I to explore this new restaurant. On the outside awning it says "All You Can Eat $15.99 and Beer $1.99(hope the liquor board doesn't read Chinese)".

Upon walking into the Nine Dishes, the reminiscent of the old place was still evident. The aquarium was there from over a decade ago, cleaned with new fishes and reef. The new paint and lights gives the space a newer facade. It was really bright compared to the old dingy campy seedy, dark lighting when it was a karaoke/restaurant many eons ago. While the lighting has improved, I was occasionally annoyed with the light bulb directly above me.

Not knowing what to expect we were handed 4 menus. There was two of us in total. Odd, normally each person gets one menu at a Chinese restaurant. Turns out he has four menu, each one with Nine Dishes. There was a menu for appetizer, meat skewers, noodles and main courses. So there are about 36 items on the menu. Each menu was filled with pictures of the dishes with English on it. I started snapping pics of the menu, when IF(the owner) asked if I liked the pictures on his menu. Have you met anyone named IF before? He asked if I thought the pictures on the menu looked god. To which I nodded my head politely and agreed it was. IF(the owner), tells us that he was born in Tianjin and his family moved to Beijing when he was 3 years old. And the food on the menu are dishes that he liked eating when he was in Beijing. Also some comfort food like the lamb congee that his mum use to make(only one person has ordered it so far).   Apparently he has been in Canada nine years which he says is another reason he chose the name Nine Dishes. The restaurant has only been opened just over 30 days. And that he has only been cooking for one month(which I am skeptical to believe).

 I asked IF for his recommendation on what he liked best on his menu, and suggested the boiled kidney in chili sauce($9.99). Dylan ordered the spicy beef slices and tripe($3.99). And we went for a variety of skewers(eggplant, pork with chili, lamb and beef tripe) at a dollar a skewer. And of course a couple of beer to wash it all down. IF(the owner) lets us know that we ordered enough food..... . The kidneys and spicy beef tripe arrived first. I am not a big fan of kidneys, but really did enjoy this dish quite a bit. Both Dylan and I loved the spicy beef and tripe. Dylan and I was hoping they would have some mantou. Which they didn't, instead they have a rice cooker which we later learned that you can help yourself to. No charge! So yea free rice, $2 beer, $1 skewer, $3.99 appies. Hmmmm..... . Seems like a gem so far.

If(the owner) theories are one I've never encountered from any restauranter. So far I gather he is either an inexperience restauranter, or out of his mind. But I am not complaining as the $1 skewer soon arrives. With lots of apprehension, that perhaps this is NOT lamb, instead a road kill or worse.... :-D . Actually they use NZ lamb which tasted great, especially for $1 a skewer. His skewers are small morsel of meat compared to N. American standards. Similar size and just as good flavor to the Chinese-Muslim street vendors in China. We ordered another beef slice and tripe. More skewers and of course more $2 beer. Over the course of SIX hours, we try as many things as our belly could handle. Enjoying the easy drinking Yanjing Beer, with and odd mixed of music ranging from Chinese pop to reggae playing in the background. Many classics that I recognized and some very esoteric odd pieces of music.

Over the course of the last two weeks, I have been here 4 times. And well, Dylan has literally lived there. Spending almost every night here. And I can assure you the food is very solid and safe to eat. And there have been many surprises each time I dine here. The service is odd to say the least. It can be slow and you need to flag IF(the owner) down for service. IF(the owner) hands you the order pad and you write down what you want. He than writes it in Chinese if you can't write Chinese and hands it to the kitchen where his wife does a majority of the cooking. Whilst IF runs back and forth in and out the kitchen and dining room. You really want the man to succeed but wonder how long he can survive working everyday with very little in return monetarily.

Recommends: IF makes his own sausage. It's a Szechuan sausage with numbing szechuan peppercorns. If you have a tolerant of spice and love chorizo, then highly recommended. I've had about 20 lamb skewers and found them all easily edible with no sinew or tough bits. The pork skewer on the menu is actually pork intestine skewer. Which is a love or hate item. Myself and a couple of friends love them. Some can't even look at it. The vegetable balls are a unique textured deep fried semi sweet batter. I like them too. The pork ribs in clay pot is very tasty, esp with a little rice. But beware this one is really greasy dish.

Pros:
Excellent Value. A couple of friends refer to this place now as the $2 beer place.
Not rushed, IF lets you drink and eat at your own pace.
Excellent Beijing Szechuan street stall food and quality.

Cons:
Lighting can be glaring at times.
Tends to leave tables cluttered and doesn't clean up after his guest leaves.
Service is not what you expect from other restaurants in the city. If you are timid you may not get served.


Food          : 7.5
Experience  : 5.5 in the beginning. Now 8.5 (4-9 depending on your priorities)
Value          : 8.5

Would return soon and highly recommend for a unique dining experience. But understand this is not a place for all folks.

Nine Dishes on Urbanspoon

10 comments:

Anonymous

The reason Yanjing Beer is so cheap at this restaurant is because the representing Agent in Canada offers this restaurant and many other prohibited cash discounts or free beer as an inducement. This behaviour conduct is not allowed, the Agent knows this but ignores and disregards honest business rules and practices. Free beer or money undermines fair and open competition.The company that represents Yanjing Beer in Canada knows this and has been spoken to buy the Liquor Authorities, yet despite this, continues to run a business on their own terms. It's prohibited and dishonest to offer and accept inducements from a liquor Agent.

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